How to Fix Portable Hard Drives

By Jason Artman

Although an external hard drive is difficult to beat in terms of convenience, it can experience certain problems that are not common with internal hard drives. Several possible causes must be considered when troubleshooting a problem with an external hard drive, and by eliminating one possible cause at a time, fixing the drive can become a less problematic task.

Things You'll Need

  • External hard drive
  • Internet connection

Light Active, but Drive Isn't Recognized

Step 1

Plug the hard drive into a power outlet and into the computer. If the drive is not recognized by Windows but the indicator light turns on, continue to the next step. If the drive is recognized but you are experiencing frequent data loss, skip to Section 2. If nothing happens, skip to Section 3.

Step 2

Right click on the "My Computer" icon on your desktop, and click "Manage." Click "Disk Management" on the left side of the screen. The "Initialize and Convert Disk Wizard" should appear if your hard drive was not initially recognized by Windows. Select your external hard drive as the one to initialize. It is not necessary to convert it. Click the "Finish" button to complete the operation.

Step 3

Right click on the initialized drive, and click "Format." Choose "NTFS" as the file system, and click OK. Your external hard drive is now ready to use.

Drive Is Recognized, But Data Loss Occurs

Step 1

Click the Start button, then click on "Control Panel." Double click on "Device Manager" to bring up the Device Manager window.

Step 2

Click the plus sign next to "Disk Drives" on the left side of the screen. Locate your external hard drive, right click on it, and click on "Properties."

Step 3

Click on the "Policies" tab, then click the radio button labeled "Optimize for quick removal." Click "OK." This procedure will slow the performance of the drive slightly, but will help to ensure that frequent file corruption is no longer experienced.

Nothing Happens When Drive Is Plugged In

Step 1

Remove the USB or FireWire cable from the back of the hard drive and try using a different one. If the hard drive requires external power, try a different power cable and power outlet.

Step 2

Visit the hard drive manufacturer's website. All prominent hard drive manufacturers have utilities that can freely be downloaded, which will check the hard drive for errors and diagnose problems. Sometimes, these utilities can repair problems that Windows Disk Management cannot.

Step 3

Call the manufacturer to obtain a replacement hard drive if the utility reports errors or does not see the drive at all.